Meta CTO thinks bad metaverse moderation could pose an ‘existential threat’

Andrew Bosworth, Meta's CTO (previously Facebook), warned employees that creating safe virtual realities experiences was an important part of their business plan. However, it could be difficult at large scale.
According to an internal memo, Bosworth stated that he wants Meta virtual worlds "almost Disney levels" of safety. However, spaces created by third-party developers may have lower standards than those directly Meta-built. If VR is turned off by mainstream consumers, Harassment and other toxic behavior could be an "existential risk" to the company’s plans for an embodied internet.

Bosworth also stated that policing user behavior at any meaningful scale was practically impossible. Hannah Murphy, FT reporter, later tweeted that Bosworth was citing Masnick’s Impossibility Theory. This maxim, which Mike Masnick coined, states that while it is not against pushing for better moderation but that large systems will always frustrate large sections of the population.

Virtual worlds may have a "stronger bias towards enforcement"

Bosworth suggests that Meta could moderate spaces such as Horizon Worlds VR using a stricter version its existing community rules. Bosworth said VR or metaverse moderation could have a "stronger bias towards enforcement along an array of warnings, successively longer suspensions and finally expulsion from multiuser spaces."

Although the memo's full text isn’t available publicly, Bosworth did post a blog entry referring to it later in day. The post, "Keeping people safe VR and beyond," refers to several of Meta's VR moderation tools. This includes the ability to block other users from VR and an extensive Horizon surveillance system that monitors and reports bad behavior. Meta also pledged $50 Million to support research on ethical and practical issues related to its metaverse plans.

FT points out that Meta's older platforms, such as Instagram and Facebook, have been criticized for their moderation failures. This includes slow and inadequate responses to hate- and violence-inducing content. Although the company's recent rebranding may offer a chance for a fresh start, it is likely that VR and virtual worlds will face new problems.

Bosworth shared in the blog post that "We often have open conversations internally and externally regarding the challenges we face and the trade-offs involved and the potential outcomes for our work." "There are many difficult societal and technical issues at play, and they are something we deal with daily."